Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Easter Grinds

Lent is almost over, and that means one thing to me these days: it's time to roast a cute & fluffy creature and invite friends over for dinner. My friends are resisting, but I'm standing firm on this one. The world changes so quickly, and sometimes all we have is tradition to ground us.

Growing up it was usually lamb for Easter. I had thought that this was as normal and widespread as turkey for Thanksgiving. It wasn't until I left Michigan that I discovered that a lot of people thought lamb was exotic, and even suspiciously ethnic. I have two dinners this weekend - a reunion of the Mykonos gang at Sumners, and Easter dinner at Dawn's. I wanted to do lamb at Dawn's. And though I think I have a great way of roasting it [an anchovy/rosemary paste, and served with roasted potatoes, artichokes, and kalamata olives], I'm getting a lot of negative reaction. It's all lamb? and eew and then: No.

On the up [and unexpected] side, people are game for rabbit - so I'll be cooking it both Saturday and Sunday. Dawn and I had an amazing rabbit dish in Vourliotes, one of the mountain villages in Samos. It was advertised as 'rabbit in red wine sauce.' It was one of those totally sublime peasant dishes that tasted like it had been roasting all day. The meat melted off the bone, and the plate was wet with a rich reddish oil. I've been dying to try it at home. After digging around I'm pretty sure it was stifado.

But I've had a hell of a time finding rabbit here in the islands. I called a number of markets and butchers, and had the same conversation five times:

- Rabbit? they'd ask.
Yeah, I'd say. Rabbit.
- and again: Rabbit?
Yes, rabbit. You know - those furry little things that hop around.
- You want a live rabbit?

And everytime my jaw would drop. Why the f' would I call a butcher for a live animal? But I'd hold my tongue, and explain patiently that I preferred that the rabbit be dressed and frozen.

I finally found a decent butcher [at my local Foodland, no less] who knew that there was a world outside of beef, pork, and chicken. He explained that no one here could sell a pallet full of rabbit, and that my best bet was to order online. I ended up ordering three four-pound roasters - and a few slabs of uncut wild boar bacon, and a chunk of ventreche - from D'Artagnan in New York. They arrive Wednesday.

Now Dawn is angling for venison also. As if. The first few stores I called didn't even recognize the word. And I'm still hoping to find a kitchen to take over to make my lamb ...

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